Like so many before her and others still to come, Agnes Norman dreamed of dancing the lead role of Clara in “The Nutcracker” ballet from the time she was a little girl.

Agnes Norman dances the role of Clara in “The Nutcracker” for the first time. Photo courtesy of Maine State Ballet

In the classic Christmas story, Clara is the young girl who receives a toy nutcracker for Christmas. The nutcracker comes to life as Clara falls asleep, and her dreams of Sugar Plum Fairies play out on stage.

Now at age 18, Norman’s real-life dream comes true. A senior at Cheverus High School in Portland, she will make her debut as Clara in the Maine State Ballet production of the holiday classic, sharing the role with Emma Davis, a longtime dancer with the company who has performed as Clara and other roles in the Maine State production. Norman will perform the lead role during the performance on Nov. 28 and two performances on Dec. 4. When not dancing as Clara, Norman will perform as Marzipan and Party Child.

“It’s pretty amazing. I never expected to get the role, at least not this year,” she said. “It’s a very new experience, and I am very excited.”

Following a shortened, digital version of the ballet last year, Maine State Ballet offers six performances of “The Nutcracker” at Merrill over two weekends, beginning Friday and running through Sunday, Dec. 5. In addition to Norman and Davis, the ballet stars Arie Eiten and Trevor Seymour, who share the part of Nutcracker Prince; Julia Lopez and Adrienne Pelletier as the Sugar Plum Fairy; Michael Hamilton and Glenn Davis are Cavaliers, and David Jon Timm plays Uncle Drosselmeyer. In all, more than 200 dancers are involved.

A battle scene from a previous production of “The Nutcracker” by Maine State Ballet. The holiday show returns to Merrill Auditorium this week. Courtesy of Maine State Ballet

Maine State Ballet artistic director and former New York City Ballet dancer Linda MacArthur Miele choreographed the ballet, with three pieces set by her protege, the renowned choreographer George Balanchine. Associate Director Gail Csoboth designed the costumes and scenery.

Norman has danced with Maine State Ballet for four years, since she and her family moved to Old Orchard Beach from Massachusetts. They had a summer home in Old Orchard, and made it their year-round home after her parents retired, she said. That winter, she attended Maine State’s “The Nutcracker” at Merrill for the first time. “I fell totally in love with it and knew I wanted to be a part of it,” she said.

A dancer since age 4 who had performed in “The Nutcracker” in her hometown of Lawrence, Massachusetts, Norman was attracted to Maine State’s classical approach to both “The Nutcracker” and to dance in general.

She’s eager for the challenge, and the reward, of performing one of the best-known parts in all of dance. “It’s a lot of responsibility,” she said. “With this role, you don’t have to explain who you are. Everyone knows who Clara is.”

Maine State Ballet will present “The Nutcracker” at 2 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Nov. 28; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 4, and 2 p.m. Dec. 5, at Merrill Auditorium; $20 to $70;  mainestateballet.org or porttix.com


WHAT ELSE IS CRACKIN’

In Kittery, the Dance Hall at 7 Walker St., hosts the return of the Bang Group’s “Nut/Cracked,” an adult-version of the holiday classic, at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10 and 2 p.m. Dec. 11. David Parker’s Bang Group mixes Tchaikovsky’s original score with music by Duke Ellington and Glenn Miller, turning the ballet into dance theater. $30 adults, $25, seniors and children. thedancehallkittery.org.

Portland Ballet takes its “Victorian Nutcracker” on a two-city tour, with performances at 2 p.m. Dec. 18 and 19 at Westbrook Performing Arts Center and at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 22 and 23 at Merrill Auditorium in Portland. With a story, costumes and themes specific to Portland’s Victoria Mansion, this performance offers audiences a unique and alternative take on the traditional story. $27 to $63 at Westbrook, $30 to $84 at Merrill; portlandballet,org and porttix.com


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